BackgroundPorphyria cutanea tarda (PCT) is caused by hexachlorobenzene (HCB) in several species of laboratory mammals, but the human evidence is contradictory. In a study among adults of a population highly exposed to HCB (Flix, Catalonia, Spain), the prevalence of PCT was not increased. We aimed at analysing the association of individual urinary porphyrins with the serum concentrations of HCB and other organochlorine compounds in this highly exposed population.MethodsA cross-sectional study on total porphyrins was carried out in 1994 on 604 inhabitants of the general population of Flix, older than 14 years. Of them, 241 subjects (comprising a random sample and the subgroup with the highest exposure) were included for the present study. The porphyrin profile was determined by high-pressure liquid chromatography. Serum concentrations of HCB, as well as common organochlorine compounds, were determined by gas chromatography coupled to electron capture detection.ResultsCoproporphyrin I (CPI) and coproporphyrin III (CPIII) were the major porphyrins excreted, while uroporphyrins I and III were only detected in 2% and 36% of the subjects respectively, and heptaporphyrins I and III in 1% and 6%, respectively. CPI and CPIII decreased with increasing HCB concentrations (p < 0.05). This negative association was not explained by age, alcohol, smoking, or other organochlorine compounds. No association was found between uroporphyrin I and III excretion, nor heptaporphyrin excretion, and HCB. CPIII increased with smoking (p < 0.05).ConclusionHCB exposure in this highly exposed population did not increase urinary concentrations of individual porphyrins.